China : A New History, Paperback
4.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


John King Fairbank was the West's doyen on China, and this book is the full and final expression of his lifelong engagement with this vast ancient civilisation.

It remains a masterwork without parallel. The distinguished historian Merle Goldman brings the book up to date, covering reforms in the post-Mao period through the early years of the 21st Century, including the leadership of Hu Jintao.

She also provides an epilogue discussing the changes in contemporary China that will shape the nation in the years to come.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 640 pages, 60 halftones, 25 maps, 6 tables
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Asian history
  • ISBN: 9780674018280



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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by
China: A New History is a comprehensive history of Chinese political and economic developments from prehistory to approximately 2005. The first edition was published in 1992 and authored entirely by John King Fairbank. Fairbank died within days of completing the work, so the task of updating it fell to his colleague and former student, Merle Goldman.In readable and occasionally humorous prose, the authors trace several important themes that have shaped the history of the world's most populous nation. One is the pervasive influence of the teachings of Confucius. Another related notion is the centralist tendencies which have worked to reunify the Chinese state after every conquest or revolution. In more modern times, they show how the overwhelmingly agricultural nature of China resulted in a fundamentally different approach to Marxism and led to the Sino-Soviet rift. There is further contrast between China and Russia in the ways the two countries implemented capitalism in the 1990s.As noted, this is primarily a political history with a heavy dose of economics. There is less stress on social and diplomatic developments, and nothing whatsoever on China's cultural history. The focus is on modern times, with half of the book being devoted to the 20th century. Thus, China: A New History is particularly suitable for understanding the forces that have shaped today's China. The book includes a few black and white illustrations as well as some very useful maps. And while this work doesn't cover every aspect of Chinese history, it does contain a remarkably comprehensive and well-organized 50-page section on "Suggested Reading" that should direct the interested student to an appropriate publication.
Review by

This splendid general history of China is an authoritative guide through millennia, yet it also includes a great amount of material on recent Chinese history, especially in the chapters added by Merle Goldman. The late professor Fairbank is our guide most of the way, and his easy style makes for delightful reading. The book addresses a number of continuing themes, such as the contrast between state and family, between urban and rural, between ruling elite and the masses. It devotes considerable time to the development and evolution of Confucian thought and the way that philosophical system influenced the government and culture of China. Fairbank also spends some time tracing the development of Mao thought. In addition, the author eases the way for the Westerner by comparing developments in China with similar developments in European history. Two very useful features in this book: 1.) every so often Fairbank will pause to survey areas that should receive further scholarly research; 2.) an extensive guide to further reading for any subject that the reader might find of interest. All in all, this book is a wonderful narrative history and a worthy introduction to an important topic.

Review by

Quintessential book of the history of the Chinese people and culture. Written without the prejudice born during the Red Scare. Factual and seemingly unbiased. Wonderful read.